Inquests – A brief practical guide

Is your organisation faced with an upcoming inquest? Have you been asked to provide a report to a coroner? Are you required to attend an inquest as a witness?

As a solicitor-advocate, I usually represent my clients personally at inquests rather than asking a barrister to do this. Having advised clients in relation to inquests and having attended inquests myself, I appreciate how intimidating and stressful the process can be for directors and staff. If any of the above questions apply to you or your organisation, please read on.

The purpose and nature of an inquest

The overriding purpose of an inquest is to answer the following four questions:

It is not the role of an inquest to find fault with any individual or organisation or to attribute blame to any party. The coroner investigates, makes enquiries and questions witnesses at the hearing, with a view to answering the four questions.

It is important to keep in mind that an inquest is quite different from a criminal trial or a hearing in the county court, where there will be at least two sides trying to persuade the judge or jury to accept their point of view. In these courts, where there are opposing parties, the hearing is said to be adversarial. In contrast, inquests are inquisitorial in nature. The coroner is seeking answers to the four questions, instead of deciding which party has won the argument.

Consequently, a coroner will work to create an atmosphere in their court that is serious and respectful of the family of the deceased. Witnesses should therefore expect to find an atmosphere in the coroners’ court that is businesslike but not overly intimidating.

Top tips

Strategic considerations

As an owner of or leader in your organisation, it is important to be aware of the strategic considerations when preparing for and attending an inquest, for example:

Further support and advice

If you would like further inquest support or advice please contact me.